Burnley-based Express Freight Solutions’ licence has been curtailed by 10% after it admitted fitting AdBlue devices to its lorries.
Director Mark Jones escaped regulatory action by the traffic commissioner (TC) by stepping down from his role at the haulage firm, and the operator retained its good repute, but only “by the narrowest margin”.
North West area TC Simon Evans heard how the DVSA stopped five of Express’s vehicles and detected AdBlue devices. The operator openly admitted that up to 12 emulators were fitted to the fleet at some stage.
Express explained to the DVSA that its HGVs were suffering from repeated emissions control problems, leading to the vehicles going into ‘limp mode’ and preventing them from being used without immediate repair.
The public inquiry heard how the company’s fleet engineer Daniel Marshall had come up with a ‘fix’ involving fitting emulators that enabled stricken lorries to return to base, where repairs could be undertaken in-house, rather than by a costly roadside subcontractor.
Jones said he was unaware the devices had been fitted, although he knew about the emissions control problems.
Evans found that the operator, through Marshall, had carried out acts that were discreditable and that the engineer probably knew what he was doing lacked legitimacy.
He also said it was likely Jones “closed his eyes” to what was going on and had failed to manage the actions of Marshall, a senior member of staff.
However, in the firm’s favour he noted that the company had a positive compliance record and a better-than-average MoT pass rate; that it had been open with the DVSA and that all devices had been removed from the HGVs.
In his written decision, the TC said: “The extent to which devices were fitted to the operator’s vehicles, and later brought into operation, represented acts that were discreditable, anti-competitive in nature and increased the risk to the public from a greater release of NOx particulates into the atmosphere.
“These devices have commonly been characterised as ‘cheat devices’. Such a description appears to me suitably apt in portraying both the nature of the ‘tricking’ of the engine management system into believing that emissions controls were operating in accordance with the manufacturer’s fitted equipment, but also ‘fooling’ any interested witness that a vehicle was meeting Euro-5 emission standards, when it was not.”
The company’s two licences were curtailed from 80 vehicles and 57 trailers to 67 and 50 respectively, for three weeks before they were curtailed indefinitely to 74 and 57.
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